The following tips/advice on working on your car is not meant to replace professional advice provided by certified Mercedes-Benz mechanics. It's intent is to provide some ideas/tips learned from busting one's knuckles while working on our cars.
OIL CHANGES: by Richard Jordan, President
Items you will need:
Oil, oil filter, oil catch pan, papertowels/rags, oil filter wrench, regular wrenches/sockets, oil funnel, and disposable gloves.
OIL: What type and weight of oil to use is quite often the source of great debate. So as to not add fuel to the fire, we will skip the conventional vs synthetic oil debate. So, as to what weight oil you should use. The oil weight or rather viscosity, be it 5W-30, 0W-40, etc. is simply and purely dependant on the anticipated outside temp. So, if the colder months are coming, then typically a thinner oil is used. Every owner's manual has a temperature graph showing what weight oils are recommended for given temperatures.
OIL FILTER: Here you can save money, but not skimp on quality. Though Fram filters are widely available and cheap, there is a reason why they are cheap. It is always best to stick with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) filters. However OEM does not mean you have to go to the dealership and pay their prices, to buy your filters. No car manufacturer makes oil filters, they buy them from outside suppliers. For all European cars the filters are made by either Mann, Mahle, or Hengst. So, it's simply a matter of finding someone who sells these brands. Online is the best source. Most people don't know that most of these online outfits are really just "drop-shippers" of parts that come from an outfit called Worldpac. Worldpac is one of the biggest parts distributors in the U.S. Word to the wise, unless you are ordering from Performance Products out of California, don't pay extra for 2 day shipping. As mentioned, Worldpac is the primary supplier to these online outfits and they have a distribution center in Edison NJ. So you will get your parts in 2-3 days anyways. Which by the way, is the same time it takes a dealer to get parts if they don't have them on hand. So, get your filters on line, buy a few of them to save on shipping. While you are buying the filters, don't buy the oil drain plug washers seperately. The oil filters come with new rubber o-rings and drainplug washers.
OIL CATCH PAN: Use a catch pan that holds more than the amount of oil your engine holds (see owner's manual). This way, after you have drained the oil and you go to move/slide the pan out from under the car, there is room for the oil to slosh around without spilling over.
PAPER TOWELS/RAGS: self explanatory
OIL FILTER WRENCH: Depending on the engine in your car, the oil filter wrench required, will vary in size. Many older diesels don't require an oil filter wrench. The oil filter is of the basket type housed under a cover that has to be removed using a 13mm wrench. At most auto stores you can buy adjustable oil filter wrenchs. There are mainly 2 types. There is the cinching strap type and a spring loaded type that requires the use of a ratchet w/an extension. If there isn't room where your filter is, to use the strap type, then buy the spring loaded type. You will find at auto parts stores another type of oil filter "wrench" and that is a cap type that fits over the end of the filter. Though most of these are design to fit many different filter sizes, they never do seem to fit properly on metric size filters. So if you want to use this type of filter wrench, the best place to get this would be the dealer.
WRENCHES: You will need a socket or open end wrench (your choice) that fits the drain plug on the oil pan. This can vary from 13mm to 19 mm. Depending on the engine in your car. Some cars even have a "inny" drainplug where you need a 14 mm hex/allen bit.
FUNNEL: I have found the best funnel, isn't a funnel at all. Get yourself an empty milk jug or windshield fluid jug and cut the top 1/3 off. Basicaly about an inch below the bottom of the handle. The diameter of the jug opening fits just right, in the oil fill hole. Too often real funnels have holes that are only 1/2 inch in diameter. Where as the jugs are at least twice as big, so you can fill the oil up twice as fast.
DISPOSABLE GLOVES: self explanatory
Now it's time to get dirty. If your car has enough ground clearance, get under the car and remove any plastic shields that may be in place. If the car sits too low, place the car on sturdy steel ramps. Place the oil catch pan under the oil pan, but not directly. The oil is going to come rushing out, so place the pan in a way that it will catch that rushng oil. While the oil is draining, remove the oil filter. If your car has a traditional metal spin on filter, do not use the oil filter wrench to tighten the filter. These are to be hand tightened. By the time you have replaced the old filter, all the old oil will have drained out. Replace the drain plug, being sure to replace the aluminum washer. Be absolutely sure you do not over tighten the drainplug. Good and snug will suffice. If you have a torque wrench, tighten the plug to specs. Some cars require 15ft lbs, others 18 ft lbs. Research the specs for your car's engine. Eitherway, you do not want to crack your oil pan or strip the threads.
With the old oil out, it's time to put in some fresh oil, start the engine, check for leaks, clean up and call it a day.
Winter Storage Tips: By Richard Jordan, President
Preventing Flat Spots in Tires
A very common problem, after cars have been sitting all winter is the tires develope flat spots. Alot of people mistaken the vibration as out of balance tires, when in fact it's flat spots causing the problem. If severe enough, the only fix is replacing the tires. To prevent this problem, inflate the tires pressure to 60 PSI. Yes, 60 PSI. This tip I got from Greenwich Porsche. Porsche ships it's cars and tell it's dealers to leave the 60 PSI in the tires until the car is delieverd to a customer. Now I am sure you are thinking "....... but the sidewall has a max rating of 44 psi". That is true, but that is for driving on the tires. Tires can handle more than what you see on the sidewalls. As everyone knows as air heat up like it does in the tires going down the road, so the pressure inside goes up. So if one is going to be driving the car, the tire manufactures take the expansion into account when list the "Max" tire pressure. So for storage purposes, taking the pressure up to 60 will do no harm, but will, hence this storage tip, prevent the tire from sagging a bit, giving you flat spots.
Gasoline Can Become Varnish
Though gasoline is not biodegradable, it is also not going to stay "fresh" for ever. Gasoline sitting in your tank over the winter can go bad. Worse yet, your fuel lines can get gummed up with the varnish that can form from gas just sitting in them for long periods of time. The most common way to help prevent this from happening and the ensuing problems with starting/running the car for the first time in the Spring, is a fuel additive called Stabil. As the name says, this addivitive is meant to "stabilize" the fuel. This can be bought at any auto parts store. To ensure that your entire fuel system gets a dose of this additive, add it to your fuel tank just before you fill the tank up for the last time of the season. This will ensure that it gets mixed thoroughly as the gas pours into your tank. Then go for that last drive of the season, this will ensure the Stabil additive makes it's way up to your injectors. Of all places, your injectors are not where you want any gummed up fuel.
Swiss Cheese Interiors/Wiring
Another common problem with long Winter storage is mice getting into your car's interior and going to town on your wiring and upholstery. Some very common ways to prevent mice and other critters from getting into your car and exhaust is moth balls. You can place moth balls on the floor around the car. Naturally the odor will repel any curious critters. Additionally, to prevent from any animals from climbing into your ehaust to make a nest, place steel wool pad in the exhaust tip.
Naturally animals are sniffing around for food, so be sure to do a thorough vacuuming. Also by placing a bowl of baking soda on the floor will help elliminate any musty ordors from developing in the interior.
To Start or Not to Start
Some say you should start your car every 3-4 weeks while it's in storage, just to keep everything lubed up in the engine. Though that sounds like good advice, this is actually doing more damage than good. As you may know, in cooler or flat out colder temps, condensation is created when your engine is running. This makes it's way into the oil, which over the course of driving the car, gets burned off when the oil gets up to it's full operating temp. This usually takes about 15 minutes of driving. So back to starting the engine every 3 weeks and letting it idle for a bit, then shutting it off. Idling the engine in your garage is not going to allow the moisture and combustion by-products, to burn off. So that nasty stuff just sits in your oil. Of course moisture (water) and oil don't mix. So when you go to start the engine again in 3 weeks, now you have a oil/water mixture going through your engine. Ever checked your oil or check the oil cap and seen a frothy milkshake substance? That is the mixture I am talking about.
So, before putting the car away for the Winter, change the oil and let her be. Come Spring, all you will need to do is start her up and drive.